HSBC acts over cash machine 'deserts'

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The Independent Online

The UK's largest bank, HSBC, committed itself yesterday to installing new fee-free cash machines in at least 10 per cent of the country's free ATM "deserts", pledging £50m to the cause.

The move came in response to a Citizens Advice report published today, which claims many of the most frequent users of fee-charging machines are among the poorest in society - who no longer have free ATMs in their area.

Citizens Advice highlights more than 100 cash machine deserts in the UK, including Chapeltown in Leeds, which was recently classified by the Government as one of the poorest areas in the UK. It has 10 fee-charging ATMs and not a single free machine. St Osyth and Jaywick in Essex are also mentioned as among the worst deserts.

David Harker, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "People on low incomes need to take out small amounts of money and more frequently, but they should not be penalised as a result. Rural communities are among the worst affected, where people may have to travel miles to the nearest free cash machine or pay a high charge."

HSBC has said it will add 500 free machines to its 2,900-strong ATM network over the next few years, some of which will be inside telephone kiosks.